Sunday, January 3, 2010

Roll with the Punches: The Little Changes Expat Life Brings

When I left the UK more than nine years ago to board a boat that would take me to a new life in the Netherlands, I never really stopped to consider how different my life would be.

I knew there was a new language to learn; one that I'd mistaken for a strange sort of German during my summer holidays in various countries. Of course, I'd heard the stereotyping of the Dutch with their clogs, windmills, cheese and tulips but I shrugged that off. Okay, so there are actually a fair few windmills in the Netherlands, some farmers wear clogs and the Dutch do happen to grow a lot of tulips.... and they like cheese. But these, along with the language, turned out to be the least of my worries. These are all the little ways my life has changed since moving from England to the land of the Dutch:

  • I own a bike - before I moved here it had been decades since I owned my own personal two wheeler. Not that my bike sees the light of day every day, week or even month..... but I can assure you that had I remained in England no bike would be in my list of possessions.
  • There is a birthday calendar in my downstairs loo. Never before have I owned a birthday calendar let alone displayed one in the smallest room in the house.
  • I visit the supermarket every other day. I used to shop once a week, twice at most in England. Here, if I want vegetables or fruit without mould I have to shop more regularly.
  • I have been subjected to the most bizarre combination of fried foods you could imagine from Dutch snacks to oliebollen at New Year.
  • I have endured the Dutch birthday circle on more than one occasion. I think it has made me a stronger and more resilient person.
  • I speak (as best I can) a second language on a regular basis.
  • I feel like an "in-betweeny" - not Dutch but also not really feeling 100% at home in England anymore.
  • I network with amazing people that I ordinarily would not have met had I stayed in England.
  • My career has turned on its head from a career in Human Resources to one in writing. This is a move I would never have made had I not moved to the Netherlands.
What are the little changes that expat life has brought into your life?

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